The Differences Between Being Fit and Healthy

At one time, I bought into this idea that if I exercised enough I would be fit. And to go along with that, if I ate a low enough fat diet, I would be thin. By default, I thought by exercising more and eating less fat I would end up healthy.

In April 2007 I achieved a lifelong goal. I became an Ironman. However, after years of training, I was neither thin nor healthy by the time I crossed the finish line.

2007 Stephanie Holbrook – Ironman Arizona

Since I didn’t reach my ultimate goal of being thin I came to the natural conclusion that I needed to do more events. If I trained harder, I would eventually get there.

This weird thing happened. Instead of getting thinner, I got fatter and slower and eventually broken.

I followed the recommended low-fat diet. I trained hard. All this left me with injuries that would not heal, allergies, chronic and uncontrolled asthma, gas and acne. These are not attributes that I was striving for.


I Am Not Alone

I was not alone. Dr. Phil Maffetone and Professor Paul Laursen noticed a phenomenon in endurance athletes. Many athletes are Fit but Unhealthy. The words “fit” and “healthy” are often used synonymously, they have different meanings.

  • Fitness: The ability to perform a given exercise task.
  • Health: A person’s state of well-being and where the body works in harmony.

Media outlets and marketing agencies imply that good body composition and performance is something to aspire to. If you achieve a great body and perform well you must be “healthy”. Too often, this is not true. An athlete can look good and perform well and still die from a horrible disease.

Too many Fit but Unhealthy Athletes

Jim Fixx, a leader in the fitness revolution, lost his life to heart disease. Fellow runner, Micah True, suffered a similar fate.

Is it their diet?

Jim Fixx – 1980 Quaker Oats Ad

We don’t know what many athletes eat on a regular basis. However, we can deduce what True’s and Fixx’s diet looked like. The Born to Run Book outlines Micah True’s diet. He ate a high carbohydrate diet that included plenty of beans and rice. Similarly, many cereal ads feature Jim Fixx, we can deduce that his diet contained a large number of carbohydrates. According to some fitness authorities, this would seem like the perfect diet.

Maybe Carbs are Not the Answer

Fixx and True are like many endurance athletes. The look healthy on the outside but suffer from insulin resistance on the inside. Many athletes do not realize the damage is being done to their bodies.

Asthma, allergies, and heart problems are not the only signs that something has gone wrong. Recently, news reports announced cancer took the life of Runner Gabe Grunewald. From all accounts, she was a vibrant, talented, and much-loved athlete. Did she eat the typical athlete diet? I wonder if she may have benefited ditching carbs. Thomas Seyfried’s talk on Cancer highlights how cancer is a metabolic disease.

Keto – Gaining In Popularity

The ketogenic diet isn’t anything new. It is the diet that many healthy and long-lived cultures have eaten since the beginning of time. It has gone by many names including Atkins, Banting, South Beach, Zero Carb, LCHF and more. The reason why it keeps coming around is that it works at improving so many health conditions.

Do a Google search for your condition and keto. It fixes most diseases in the western world. Because these diseases didn’t exist until we started eating processed foods and hybridized fruits and vegetables.

Good Marketing

Profit margins and good marketing made the low-fat diet popular. In the 1960s, the sugar industry-funded research that downplayed the risks of sugar and highlighted the hazards of fat, according to a published article in JAMA Internal Medicine. Obesity rates, cancer, heart disease, and stroke, to name a few, have all risen since then.

Times are Changing

In this information age, times are changing. I hope keto may be catching on. Good researchers like Raymond Swanson, MD, studied different aspects of the ketogenic diet. When inducing a ketogenic state in mice with stroke injuries, he said, “I was overwhelmed by the effect.” Blocking glucose metabolism worked to suppress inflammatory genes. This, in turn, helped stroke healing.
The anti-inflammatory effect of the diet is likely the same effect that helps children with seizures. Ketogenic diets have been used as a treatment for some forms of epilepsy for almost a century. The same anti-inflammatory effects help athletes recover.
Ethan Weiss, MD, studied the effects of diet on weight and heart health. “It’s incredibly powerful,” said Weiss of the keto diet. “Cutting back on carbohydrates, there are so many metabolic benefits.

Be a Fit and Healthy Athlete

Do you want to be Fit and Healthy? Not only can this diet improve your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar, but they also increase fat oxidation to boost performance and lower your triglycerides.

I Found Health and Fitness

After ditching the carbs and adopted a ketogenic diet. I no longer have insulin resistance. After that, my chronic and uncontrolled asthma, gas, and acne all went away. Gone is my $80 prescription bill. Finally, I achieved the health and fitness that I was looking for. However, my body sustained a fair amount of damage during those low-fat days. I am still healing and working towards thin.

Stephanie (on the left), 2nd Place. 2019 South Mountain Time Trial

What changes have you made to achieve health and fitness?


I highlight the differences between being fit and being healthy with my talk was on the Low Carb Cruise.

Low Carb Cruise Talk – Difference Between Being Fit and Being Healthy
Slide Show for the Presentation
Do you need help becoming a keto-adapted athlete? Check out my Services.
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Coach Stephanie

Hi, My name is Coach Stephanie Holbrook. I learned how to regain my health and turn back the clock. I now help endurance athletes show you everything you need to maximize health, performance and a younger feeling body.

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